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Inside Skilled Trades: Marine Coating

James Bryant didn’t want to work retail anymore; truckers Larry Morris and Everett Gamble grew tired of life on the road. Karen Gibson and Shaunte Brooks sought a challenge beyond their traditional office jobs.

Roberto Bautista shared a sentiment expressed by the entire group. “I wanted a career, not a job. I wanted to do something interesting and fun,” said the former pizza cook.

After completing Marine Trade Training Coating Level 1 at Tidewater Community College, the six-student cohort will start their next professional chapter as employees at Newport News Shipbuilding. Given the 100 percent pass rate, each of the students will be reimbursed the $250 program fee.

“We’ll be starting off at $18 or $19 an hour,” said Bryant, 20, who aspires to work his way into a management position.

“Now I have a skill I can take with me for the rest of my life,” Gamble said. “This is a great deal.”

The students earned certificates on March 13 at TCC’s Center for Workforce Solutions in northern Suffolk, the same site where they received hands-on training in marine painting. It’s a craft that is far more technical than updating the color in your bathroom.

Marine painters apply protective coatings using brushes, spray guns and rollers. Initial class time is spent learning about rust and corrosion and how to prevent it.  Retired Navy veteran Bill Sowers instructed the class, which introduce students to the properties of paint and the best coating to use for each surface.

Students learn the terminology — from mutt to stern to bow to bulkhead  — and how to use tools – needle guns, sandpaper and gauges – that will be on hand their first day of work in the shipyard.

They practice by painting mockups inside a state-of-the-art portable trailer just a few paces away from their classroom. Student trade turns as inspectors, using a magnetic gauge that checks for anything amiss in their peers’ work.

Sowers encourages them to take pride in their good work. Put succinctly, he noted, “The Navy has gotten sick and tired of their ships being messed up. Seventy-five percent of the time it’s because of painting jobs that have failed.”

Roberto Bautista

That won’t happen with this group, which diligently attending the eight-hour per day class sessions that ran for two weeks. Their foundation taught them how unforgiving saltwater and wind can be to a vessel. The course is taught per Society of Protective Coating standards.

“We’re helping the community in a different way,” Bautista said. “We’re helping the nation, in fact.”

“These students will already know their way around a Navy ship and know what to do,” Sowers said. “They can go right to work because they don’t have to be trained.”

The Virginia Ship Repair Association’s Marine Trade Training Program is designed to help you get a head-start on a rewarding career in the Ship Repair Industry. If you’re interested in a career in marine coating, electrical, outside machinist, pipefitting, sheet metal or welding, start by completing a pre-hire form.